Extended Breastfeeding: Our Journey

I never intended to nurse my child for an extended length of time… as a matter of fact, my original goal was six months. At six months, I made my goal one year. At one year, I made my goal ‘as long as we’re both happy.’ And here we are… just three weeks away from my oldest little being three-years-old, and we’re still happy, and we’re still nursing.

We introduced solids to my daughter, C, when she was about six months old. We introduced cow’s milk at about one-year-old. It was when she was about 16 or 17 months old when, technically, I started the whole ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ thing. But to be honest, that never worked because there was never a time in her life where she didn’t ask.

I got pregnant with baby #2 when my daughter was 10 months old. I nursed throughout my pregnancy and when my son was born, I tandem nursed. I always nursed my baby first and C second. Gradually, she cut back more and more. Now, at almost three, she nurses only before bed at nighttime.

I told that to a friend and she asked me very honestly… how does that work?

Here is the run down:

I have an 18-month-old son who still nurses like he’s six months old (That’s another ‘breastfeeding journey’ story for another day).

Our nighttime routine includes me, my husband and our two kids sitting in bed reading books. I nurse ‘the baby,’ my son L, while Daddy reads books with C. Because he’s a busy, interested-in-everything-his-sister-does toddler, sometimes he only nurses for five minutes, other times it’s much longer. If he’s really tired, he’ll even fall asleep nursing. After books and our bedtime prayer, Daddy will take L into the other room to fall asleep. I lay in bed and cuddle with C. This is when she’ll lay close to me and, every night without fail, ask to nurse. Usually I let her. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m too touched out or too stressed out or too mentally exhausted.

How much milk she gets depends entirely on how long my son nursed a few minutes earlier. If he nursed for 20 minutes on both sides, there usually isn’t much, if anything, left. She’ll let me know if there isn’t any milk and then we’ll just cuddle. Other times, there’s lots of milk and sometimes I’ve got to cut her off because I’m uncomfortable laying on my side or because I am just ready for her to go to sleep. When I have to ‘cut her off,’ I tell her I’m going to count to ten and by the time I get to ten she’ll be all done.

I’ll be honest now: I’m ready to stop. My daughter? She isn’t.

If she had her way, she’d nurse as often as her little brother does. But we talk often about how big kid three-year-olds don’t need to nurse anymore, and she knows that when she turns three, she’ll stop. It already feels bittersweet, but I am definitely looking forward to it.

We’ve had our share of nursing problems. None terrible, thank goodness, and I know we’ve been very blessed to have it so easily.

Anthropologically, children don’t wean until they are between four and six years old. Unfortunately, in American society today, mothers are expected to stop at one year at the latest.

Breastfeeding does not lose any benefits if you nurse your kid beyond what is socially acceptable. Breastmilk is still the most nutrient-packed, healthiest food you can give your child. And that doesn’t even touch on all the benefits to mama!

I think it’s important for moms to know that it’s normal to breastfeed your child past one year. It’s normal and it’s healthy and it makes you a rockstar mama.

Before I had kids, I certainly never expected to nurse my children this long. I never really had any expectations about nursing, to be honest. But having kids has a way of changing your priorities and your opinions, doesn’t it?

The last three years have passed by me so quickly. My chubby little newborn has turned into a smart, beautiful, vibrant little girl. But she’s still my baby.

3 Responses to Extended Breastfeeding: Our Journey

  1. Wow - 3 years is amazing. Great job and thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Wow I am so glad to find another mum who managed 3 years. My eldest was just 2 and a half when my second child was born and I had obviously to devote milk to the baby. But we managed 3 years with the 2nd and the third child. As a result their health is outstanding and they have amazingly strong bones and teeth. All fit as fiddles. Well done to you and keep going. I found that 3 was an age when they were old enough to discuss matters and we agreed that at three they would be grown up not to have milk and for us that worked out just fine.

    • I love the stories shared on MSW. It is a great feeling to find another person out there who has shared your experience. It really drives home that we are not alone. Congrats on your extended breastfeeding journey, Jeanne!

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